The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust announced a $3.9 million grant to NYC Health + Hospitals to launch and integrate a new tele-behavioral health service into its virtual urgent care platform, ExpressCare, and to test four new strategies to engage high-needs patients in behavioral healthcare. The grant also supports NYC Health + Hospitals to work with the NYC Department of Homeless Services to create a tailored version of the new tele-behavioral healthcare service for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, a chronically underserved community.
The grant will help provide around-the-clock support for mental health conditions, including psychiatric support and substance abuse treatment. NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest municipal healthcare system in the U.S., will develop a tailored version of the behavioral health service to treat patients at 25 homeless shelters and six mobile street outreach clinics in the first year. In the grant’s second year, NYC Health + Hospitals will use the grant to increase the use of ExpressCare and plan, execute, and evaluate four behavioral health engagement strategies targeted to some of the hardest-to-reach patients.
“Helmsley’s New York City Program is dedicated to increasing health stability and improving outcomes for New Yorkers with high needs,” said Tracy Perrizo, the New York City Program Officer at Helmsley. “The expansion of ExpressCare to include on-demand urgent behavioral healthcare will reduce avoidable, costly trips to the emergency room and go a long way in improving preventive healthcare for this vulnerable population. We appreciate the vision and partnership of NYC Health + Hospitals and look forward to expanding behavioral health services for this important patient population,” said Perrizo.
NYC Health + Hospitals launched its virtual urgent care program in 2020 with support from Helmsley to tailor the service for homeless patients in partnership with the Helmsley-funded NYC Collaborative for Homeless Healthcare, who advised on the process. The ExpressCare platform quickly filled a critical healthcare gap facing vulnerable residents, especially throughout the pandemic. It has served 75,000 New Yorkers to date with a 95-percent overall patient satisfaction score.
The new three-year grant will seek to expand ExpressCare’s current reach by including much-needed services for consultations or refilling medications, which will help to address some of the challenges that unnecessarily send high-needs patients to the emergency department. The project also tests the impact of lifting barriers that patients may face in seeking behavioral care when they are homeless or unstably housed, including difficulties accessing and navigating the service and prohibitive cost-sharing requirements.
“I would like to thank the Helmsley Charitable Trust for its generous investment in ExpressCare as we expand this vital service to one of our city’s most vulnerable populations,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz. “We understand how difficult it may be for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness to get to a doctor’s office. This grant will allow NYC Health + Hospitals to bring some stability to their lives by making mental health and substance abuse services available 24/7 through our virtual platform.”
“This substantial Helmsley grant will help underserved New Yorkers who may be dealing with behavioral health issues that are exacerbated by their living situation,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President and Chief Quality Officer Eric Wei. “The pandemic has underscored just how important it is for NYC Health + Hospitals to reach New Yorkers outside of a traditional medical setting, and we are looking forward to expanding our tele-behavioral health services.”
“We applaud the Helmsley Charitable Trust for their extraordinary generosity,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President for External & Regulatory Affairs Deborah A. Brown. “This investment is an example of the many ways that our partner organizations collaborate to lift up our mission and expand our efforts to reach vulnerable populations.”
“Virtual ExpressCare has proven the innovation of NYC’s public healthcare system,” said NYC Health + Hospitals ExpressCare Executive Director Erfan Karim. “With this funding, we can further test and scale emerging models of care to engage and treat vulnerable and homeless New Yorkers.”
“DHS is thankful to Helmsley for supporting this program and appreciative of NYC Health + Hospitals’ efforts to broaden and facilitate access to much-needed services for persons experiencing homelessness,” said Department of Homeless Services Medical Director Fabienne Laraque. “This program will improve health by increasing access to behavioral health specialists around the clock for those who would like to connect to the ExpressCare tele-urgent care service.”
“We are excited to continue with and expand upon on our ongoing collaboration with the Helmsley Charitable Trust,” said NYC Health + Hospitals ExpressCare Chief Operating Officer Christopher Philippou. “This partnership will enable Virtual ExpressCare and NYC Health + Hospitals to sustainably improve care among vulnerable and homeless populations by closing health equity and technology gaps.”
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the United States and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $3 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes.